While this may be surprising to a few people, I find Kim Kardashian an interesting celebrity to study. I’m not necessarily watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians, its spin-off shows, or even picking up magazines that she’s featured in, but I do find myself clicking on blogs and online news articles about her, especially when it has to do with her net worth.
She has perfected a version of celebrity economy, where famous people can become wealthy (and sometimes more famous) through endorsements and product promotion. Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are all athletes who have leveraged the celebrity economy with their endorsements. To be clear, these guys all built their celebrity economy on a very talented and skilled foundation.
Kim has now found a way to demonstrate to everyone how she has risen to the rankings of an A-list celebrity and perfected her celebrity economy, and everyday people like you and me can try our hand at it via a game on your iPhone. Of course, in true Kim Kardashian fashion, she’ll be making a good bit of money from it as well.
“Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” is in the top of the charts for free and top grossing games on iOS. This is a game that people with Apple products can download for free, and then play a simulated version of Kim Kardashian’s rise to fame by completing assigned tasks like working, going to parties or dating. This game is able to gross large amounts of money by having in-game purchases available that make the user rise to fame faster. This is a similar system to the game Candy Crush, and continues to show that gaming can strike gold with popularity. In fact, the game is expected to gross $200 million in revenue this year, with Kim receiving around $85 million.
While it’s natural to be jealous of someone making $85 million, I think taking a closer look at her game gives a better view into exactly how her (and other celebrities’) money and happiness balances out. In the game, it’s very clear that you have to spend money to stay popular. You can lose fans by not wearing expensive, trendy new outfits, or purchasing extravagant homes and cars. However, in real life, when is the last time you saw a story about a celebrity making a smart financial move, or saving for the future on the cover of Us Weekly? Instead you only see the new custom Bentley a celeb has purchased. I think this trap of fame and spending is why we hear of so many celebrities going bankrupt after their big paydays are behind them.
Spending money to buy happiness is clearly something that we see pushed in “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood,” the real Hollywood and then pumped straight into our TVs, websites, newspapers and more. Spending infinite amounts of money doesn’t necessarily purchase happiness, though.
In the research for my latest book, You Can Retire Sooner Than You Think, I found that in most cases related to money there is a plateau effect. Having more money and spending more money above certain thresholds will give you a diminishing return on happiness. In other words, having and spending more money won’t necessarily make you happier. On top of that, the minimums I found that balance money and happiness were not in the millions, in fact they were much lower.
Let’s take a hypothetical year-over-year example from Kim Kardashian’s income. In this past year she was estimated to have an income of $28 million. Let’s assume in this upcoming year she will make $100 million. While those numbers are very different, they most likely will not change her lifestyle significantly because she is already living a lavish lifestyle. On the other side of this coin, if you were making $28,000 a year and then jumped up to $100,000 a year, your lifestyle would probably change a lot because your budget would suddenly give you a lot more financial freedom than when you started. Ultimately your happiness would increase more than Kim Kardashian’s.
Kim Kardashian might be perfecting the celebrity economy of gaining money and fame, but it doesn’t guarantee her more happiness. There is a balance to money and happiness, and I don’t think Kim Kardashian or Hollywood in general gives us a real expectation of what that balance involves. It’s important to keep what you are making and spending in perspective, and make sure you are spending what you need and not what other people (or “fans”) demand that you spend. Be careful you’re not trying to keep up with the Kardashians.